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Investigating and Settling Potential HIPAA Privacy and Security Violations

Since the beginning of 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (?Ç£OCR?Ç¥) has announced six substantial settlements with HIPAA covered entities (either health care providers or health plans) for potential violations of the HIPAA privacy and security rules (?Ç£HIPAA Rules?Ç¥) related to safeguarding protected health information (?Ç£PHI?Ç¥). OCR is the federal agency responsible for enforcement of the HIPAA Rules. These settlements generally arose from investigations pursued by OCR following the receipt of a breach report by the covered entity and involved settlement payments ranging from $25,000 to $6.85 million (the second largest HIPAA settlement payment in OCR history). The settlements also imposed a corrective action plan on each covered entity, with two years of monitoring by OCR. Findings by OCR during its investigations included one or more of the following infractions by the subject covered entity: Neglected to implement HIPAA policies and procedures; Failed… Continue Reading

Federal Tax Withholding and Reporting Requirements for Distributions from a Qualified Retirement Plan to a State?ÇÖs Unclaimed Property Fund

Third party administrators for employer-sponsored qualified retirement plans often recommend to employers that unclaimed account balances for mandatory cash-outs of small amounts (under $1,000) be remitted to the unclaimed property fund for the participant?ÇÖs state of residence. The IRS recently clarified in Rev. Rul. 2020-24 that amounts remitted to a state?ÇÖs unclaimed property fund are subject to withholding under Section 3405 of the Internal Revenue Code (the ?Ç£Code?Ç¥) and, in the event the amounts distributed exceed $10, reporting under Section 6047 of the Code. A plan sponsor will not be treated as failing to comply with the withholding and reporting requirements with respect to payments made before the earlier of January 1, 2022 or the date it becomes reasonably practicable for the plan sponsor to comply with such requirements. An employer that sponsors a qualified retirement plan should discuss this guidance with their plan?ÇÖs third-party administrator to ensure that any… Continue Reading

IRS Expands Reasons for Self-Certification of Eligibility for a Waiver of the 60-Day Rollover Requirements

The Internal Revenue Code provides that amounts distributed from a qualified plan or individual retirement arrangement (?Ç£IRA?Ç¥) will be excluded from income if they are transferred to an eligible retirement plan within 60 days following the day of receipt. The IRS previously announced in Rev. Proc. 2016-47 (the ?Ç£Prior Rev. Proc.?Ç¥) that individuals who fail to rollover retirement plan distributions into a new retirement plan or IRA within 60 days may self-certify to the new plan?ÇÖs administrator or the IRA?ÇÖs trustee that the individual qualifies for a waiver of the 60-day rollover requirement. The Prior Rev. Proc. listed 11 reasons that support waiving the 60-day rollover requirement, which include an error committed by a financial institution, a lost or uncashed distribution check, or the death or serious illness of a family member. In Rev. Proc. 2020-46, the IRS expanded this list to include instances in which the distribution was made… Continue Reading

IRS Announces 2021 Qualified Retirement Plan Limits

The IRS recently announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2021. Below is a list of some of the key annual limits that will apply to qualified retirement plans in 2021: Compensation limit used in calculating a participant?ÇÖs benefit accruals: increased to $290,000. Elective deferrals to 401(k) and 403(b) plans: remains unchanged at $19,500. Annual additions to a defined contribution plan: increased to $58,000. Catch-up contributions for employees aged 50 and over to 401(k) and 403(b) plans: remains unchanged at $6,500. Annual benefit limit for a defined benefit plan: remains unchanged at $230,000. Compensation dollar limit for defining a ?Ç£key employee?Ç¥ in a top heavy plan: remains unchanged at $185,000. Compensation dollar limit for defining a ?Ç£highly compensated employee?Ç¥: remains unchanged at $130,000. View the full list of 2021 plan limits in Notice 2020-79 here.

Want to Elect to Have a Safe Harbor Plan for 2021? ?Çô The Time is Now

As we previously reported here, earlier this year, the IRS provided relief to plan sponsors of safe harbor 401(k) and 403(b) plans, allowing them to amend their plans mid-year to suspend or reduce safe harbor contributions through the end of the 2020 plan year. Many employers elected to make this change in order to reduce overall costs to help them weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Plan sponsors who want to go back to a safe harbor plan design for 2021 must (i) amend their plan documents before the end of the year to include safe harbor contributions; (ii) notify their third party administrators as soon as possible so that the third party administrator is prepared to administer the plan as a safe harbor plan; and (iii) provide the required safe harbor notice to participants at least 30 days (and not more than 90 days) before the beginning of the plan year.… Continue Reading

Delegating Fiduciary Duties Under ERISA Plans

The recent decision in Hampton v. National Union by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois highlights the importance of following the provisions in ERISA plan documents for delegating fiduciary duties to entities acting as plan fiduciaries, such as third-party service providers and insurers. Following the death of her husband, who was an employee of The Boeing Company (?Ç£Boeing?Ç¥), the plaintiff sought to recover accidental death and dismemberment benefits under insurance policies sponsored by Boeing, for which she was the sole designated beneficiary. After National Union, which underwrote and co-administered the policies with AIG Claims, Inc., denied the plaintiff?ÇÖs initial benefits claim, as well as her appeal of such denial, the plaintiff brought suit under ERISA. The plaintiff argued that the court should apply a de novo standard of review (i.e., no deference given to the plan fiduciary?ÇÖs prior decisions) because National Union did not have discretionary… Continue Reading

DOL Brief Supports ERISA Claims for Violation of Mental Health Parity Requirements

The U.S. Secretary of Labor (the ?Ç£Secretary?Ç¥) recently filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit arguing that, where a beneficiary alleged that he was denied covered mental health benefits because his employer?ÇÖs group health plan applied an exclusion in violation of ERISA?ÇÖs mental health parity requirements, he is authorized to bring a claim for those benefits under ERISA. ERISA Section 502(a)(1)(B) allows a beneficiary to bring a civil action to ?Ç£recover benefits due to him under the terms of his plan, to enforce his rights under the terms of the plan, or to clarify his rights to future benefits under the terms of the plan.?Ç¥ The amicus brief was filed in the case of N.R. v. Raytheon Co., in which a beneficiary of the company?ÇÖs self-funded health plan was denied coverage for speech therapy treatment under the terms of… Continue Reading

Last Year for Leniency on Forms 1095-C

In keeping with prior years, the IRS has extended the due date for providing the 2020 Forms 1095-B and C to individuals until March 2, 2021. These forms are required for compliance with the Affordable Care Act (?Ç£ACA?Ç¥). In Notice 2020-76, the IRS also extended the good-faith transition relief for penalties related to incomplete or incorrect Forms 1095-B and C to 2020. Notice 2020-76 also states that this is the last year for which the IRS intends to provide this type of good-faith relief. This relief was especially helpful for employers who received ACA employer penalty notices and determined that the penalty notices were related to reporting errors on their Form 1095-C. Employers should thus ensure that all software errors and glitches that resulted in incorrect coding on Forms 1095-C are resolved before the 2021 reporting is due. Notice 2020-76 is available here.

DOL Clarifies Position Regarding COBRA Notice Requirement

As we discussed in our prior blog post here, there has been a recent significant increase in class action litigation challenging the sufficiency of COBRA election notices. These cases typically allege that a deficient or misleading COBRA notice caused a former employee (or other COBRA qualified beneficiary) to lose group health plan coverage because the notice lacked certain required information or was not written in an understandable manner. One claim that is often raised in these cases is that the COBRA notice fails to provide the name, address, and telephone number of the plan administrator. However, the DOL recently clarified its position on this matter in an amicus brief filed in Carter v. Southwest Airlines Co. Board of Trustees, which is a proposed COBRA class action lawsuit. In its brief, the DOL stated that a COBRA election notice is not required to contain contact information for the plan administrator if… Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Cert in Sun Capital Appeal; Leaves Door Open for Private Equity Fund Liability for Portfolio Company Pension Liabilities

In the latest development in the Sun Capital line of cases, on October 5, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari review of New England Teamsters & Trucking Industry Pension Fund v. Sun Capital Partners. The Sun Capital cases center around the issue of whether affiliated private equity funds, Sun Capital Partners III and Sun Capital Partners IV (collectively, the ?Ç£Funds?Ç¥), can be held liable for the pension fund withdrawal liability of a portfolio company, Scott Brass Inc. (?Ç£SBI?Ç¥), which went into bankruptcy while owned by the Funds. In 2013, the First Circuit held that multiple private equity funds could be jointly and severally liable under ERISA for the withdrawal liability of a portfolio company if such funds were (i) a trade or business and (ii) in the company?ÇÖs controlled group (see our prior blog post on that court decision here). On remand by the First Circuit in 2016, the… Continue Reading

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